Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Jamaican Anglicans not bound by vote on blessings of same-sex unions

Published:Tuesday | February 21, 2023 | 12:10 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Father Sean Major Campbell
Father Sean Major Campbell

The Church of England’s historic decision to authorise the blessing of same-sex civil marriages will have little effect on the Jamaican Anglican Church, according to two local priests.

Bishop of Kingston Garth Minott said that churches in the Anglican Communion remain independent of each other and that the recent General Synod vote was not binding.

“This means the decision of the Church of England General Synod does not affect the position of the Church in the Province of the West Indies (CPWI), of which the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands is a part,” Minott said in response to Gleaner queries on the weekend.

Anglican church leaders voted 250-181 in support of the shift in the landmark doctrinal shift, but individual churches were encouraged to state their position to avoid confusion and disappointment.

Minott said the CPWI, in general, and the Anglican Church in Jamaica will continue to affirm Lambeth Resolution 1:10 of 1998, which states that the denomination cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions or the ordaining of those involved in same-gender unions.

While it rejects sex between gays as incompatible with Scripture, the Lambert Resolution also calls for the Anglican Church to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage, and the trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.

Evolving policy on homosexuality has caused global fracture in Anglicanism, with the African bloc the most vociferous agitator against an easing of conservative doctrines.

The Anglican Communion has a membership of 80 million globally.

Already, The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, which represents churches in 24 countries and provinces, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, have expressed their opposition towards the blessing of same-sex civil marriages. They argue that the new stance “goes against the overwhelming mind of the Anglican Communion”.

Minott emphasised that “local churches will continue fellowship and cooperation with the Church of England as an independent entity within the worldwide Anglican Communion or fellowship of Churches”.

While noting that the Anglican Church in Jamaica is guided by Jamaican law and culture, human-rights activist and Anglican priest Father Sean Major-Campbell contends that the “church should seek to be a vehicle of equal rights and justice for all, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, and any station in life”.

Three provisions under Jamaica’s 1864 Offences Against the Person Act – Sections 76, 77, and 79 – criminalise same-sex relations.

Major-Campbell, rector of Christ Church in Vineyard Town, said that while the Church of England’s decision will neither “harden nor soften” the stance of the local denomination, it could cause more Christians to give “serious thought to love and commitment rather than the preoccupation with condemning same-sex love and marriage equality”.

“A much broader and much-needed conversation for the Church and nation is that of gender and sexual diversity in all its beautiful manifestations,” he said. “The way forward is to allow the human-rights position to prevail where there is a conflict between state and human rights, church and human rights, politics and human rights. Justice for one and justice for all.”

It is a view shared by Glenroy Murray, executive director of Equality for All Foundation Jamaica, a gay-rights lobby who asserts that the church is a “big part” of the lives of members of the LGBTQ community. He hailed the Church of England’s decision as a positive step towards fostering equity for all its members, and reiterated calls that the church should be a safe space for all.

“It’s important that churches do not reinforce discriminatory attitudes and ensure in their social programmes, that all their members have access to the support they offer. I think Churches can do more to engage and understand our local community a bit more to develop a better appreciation about what we want here in Jamaica, and focus less on what they think we want based on what they see happening elsewhere,” he said.